Rishi Sunak hit by huge Boris Johnson problem with battle ahead

Boris' withdrawal statement 'undermines winner' says expert

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A quarter of people would prefer Boris Johnson as Prime Minister over Rishi Sunak, new polling shows. The survey by Techne for Express.co.uk suggests the former PM could be a thorn in the side of the ex-Chancellor, who was instrumental in his downfall.

The poll found 26 percent of respondents would rather Mr Johnson as Prime Minister than Mr Sunak.

While a larger chunk – 38 percent – picked Mr Sunak, the 26 percent backing Mr Johnson is a significant amount and likely to prove a headache for the new Tory leader. 

A further 36 percent were unable to decide between the pair.

The poll of 1,624 British adults carried out from October 26 to 27 comes after Mr Johnson paved the way for Mr Sunak to become PM when he ruled himself out of the Tory leadership race last weekend.

The 58-year-old sent speculation of a dramatic comeback into overdrive when he rushed back to Britain from a family holiday in the Caribbean last Saturday.

But late on Sunday, Mr Johnson declared himself out of the race having never officially entered.

In a statement, he said he had reached the 100 required nominations from fellow Tory MPs to make it to the online ballot of party members.

But Mr Johnson, who led the Conservatives to their biggest landslide in decades in 2019, admitted he could not unite his divided party just seven weeks after departing No 10 following a series of scandals.

He said: “I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.

“There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.”

In a hint another comeback bid is likely in the future, he added: “I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

Mr Johnson’s withdrawal was followed by the third contender Penny Mordaunt pulling out at the 11th hour after failing to secure the required nominations.

Mr Sunak was unveiled as the new Tory leader on Monday before taking the keys to No10 on Tuesday.

But questions will no doubt continue over what Mr Sunak’s former boss will do next.

Mr Johnson fuelled rumours of a comeback in his final speech outside Downing Street last month with his reference to Cincinnatus, who was recalled from his farm to save ancient Rome from crisis.

In his first speech as PM on Tuesday, Mr Sunak said he will “always be grateful” to Mr Johnson for his “incredible achievements” during his time in the top job.

Mr Sunak pledged to deliver on the Conservative 2019 manifesto, insisting Mr Johnson would agree it is not “the sole property of any one individual”.

He said: “I will always be grateful to Boris Johnson for his incredible achievements as prime minister and I treasure his warmth and generosity of spirit.

“I know he would agree that the mandate my party earned in 2019 is not the sole property of any one individual, it is a mandate that belongs to and unites all of us.

“And the heart of that mandate is our manifesto. I will deliver on its promise.

“A stronger NHS, better schools, safer streets, control of our borders, protecting our environment, supporting our armed forces, levelling up and building an economy that embraces the opportunities of Brexit where businesses invest, innovate and create jobs.”

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